Environment As The Third Teacher

How do you move forward teaching and learning in a classroom?  We know from our work with Collaborative Teacher Inquiry that the “smartest person in the room is the room”.  If we de-privatize the classroom and share best practices and student work to move forward instruction, learning will become more personalized for both students and teachers.

This learning is even better if the Principal is actively learning alongside their staff.  A meta analysis on the Principal’s effect size in schools notes that Promoting and Taking Part in Teacher Learning has an effect size of 0.84 – Anything over 0.20 should be considered.  Ensuring an Orderly and Supportive Environment -0.27.  What we focus our attention on is what gains momentum.  As a Principal in a school, what do you focus the majority of your attention on?

The same can be said for student work.  Alan November says that “Teachers need to stop saying, ‘Hand it in,’ and start saying ‘Publish it,’ instead”.  If students are handing it in to teachers, the work is often good enough.  If the work is being viewed by a larger audience, students will be thoughtful about what their audience is receiving.  This is the de-privatization of the classroom.  As a Principal, how to you model the iterative process of sharing ideas and nurturing creativity and innovation?  Does the learning environment extend beyond the classroom wall?  

Environment should reflect the beliefs and philosophy about students’ social/physical/cognitive development and their learning needs- The Third Teacher

Do the classroom walls reflect students’ understanding, student learning, student voice?  Can they change the learning environment to reflect their learning, thinking and understanding?  Are teachers privileging and celebrating student thinking and demonstrating their learning on a continuum?  We know that students learn best when we begin with their strengths and move forward their understanding using student voice.  Do the walls reflect the messy ambiguity of learning or do they celebrate the answer over the process?

As part of a Collaborative Inquiry on Brain Based Learning, I learned about the magic of an eraser free school.  Students proudly demonstrated their mistakes as part of the learning process.  This work and the mistakes were showcased on the walls of the hallway.  As a Principal do we proudly demonstrate that mistakes are important to the learning process or do we only showcase the work that is perfect.  Do we extend our learning space to include parents, other educators, the community?  Can we use student work to impact and change the local and global communities?  Do we use social media to ensure that student work and learning is impactful?

When we put up student work on the walls of the classroom we build a community of learners in the school.  When we publish student work and learning online we extend the learning community to include parents, local and global audiences.

Gianna Helling

Student Achievement Officer

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